The City of Fayetteville is one of the few large cities in North Carolina to restore red-light cameras on city streets to prevent intersection traffic accidents. State law says net proceeds from the fines must go directly to the Cumberland County Board of Education. “Since it was executed in March 2015, the red-light camera program has provided approximately $1.1 million net to Cumberland County,” said Mayor Nat Robertson.
“While the purpose of the red-light camera program is traffic safety, the money generated at these city intersections could go a long way to demonstrably improving both pedestrian safety and recreational facilities,” the mayor said in a letter to Board of Education Chairman Greg West. Currently, the school board puts the money in its general fund. It’s not the first time a member of City Council proposed asking the school system to earmark red-light camera funds for a special project. Mayor Pro Tem Mitch Colvin spoke of dedicating the money for the special needs of young children. City Council never acted on the idea. For that matter, it has never seriously discussed asking the school board to spend the fine funds in ways preferred by city government. Robertson disagrees: “The purpose of the letter to Chairman West was consistent with the thought of some councilmembers as we have previously discussed,” he said.
Councilman Kirk deViere, who ran against Robertson in the 2013 mayoral race, said Robertson’s letter to West was inappropriate because it did not represent a consensus of City Council. “This letter makes it sound like you have consensus from council when you stated ‘we request’ in the third paragraph of the letter,” said deViere. Robertson specifically asked that the school board “adopt a policy designating all future red-light camera proceeds to further the City’s efforts in the extension of sidewalks and enhancements to shared recreation facilities at schools located inside the city limits of Fayetteville.” His letter concludes, “I make this request on behalf of the entire City Council and look forward to your positive response.” West has not responded as far as we know. Robertson was surprised at deViere’s response to his request. “Honestly, I can’t speak on Kirk’s political motivations, but to me, there is no reason to compromise on doing the right thing for the people I represent,” Robertson said.
Modern red-light camera systems are sophisticated and expensive. American Traffic Solutions contracts with Fayetteville to operate the growing number of covered intersections. Officials said it costs about $100,000 to construct a single video/still camera operation. Violators are fined $100, 30 percent of which goes to the company. The balance is paid directly to the school system. Violators receive letters which say in part. “Based upon images captured by the automated system, your vehicle was determined to have committed a red-light violation. As the vehicle owner, the Notice of Violation is mailed to you.”
There is an appeal process during which violators are shown still photos and persuasive videotape of the violations.